Where do the experienced Javascript / AJAX developers hang out and discuss things on the net?
April 6, 2007 9:32 AM   Subscribe

Where do the experienced Javascript / AJAX developers hang out and discuss things on the net?

comp.lang.javascript has been more or less helpful for me in the past. But I've recently found myself frustrated as I try to do more with Javascript and support more broswers. On a practical level, some of the recent questions I've needed help with have either been answered incorrectly or not answered at all. Some of this is stuff I'd really think people would be all over: for example, the reference implementation given for a JSON stringifier/parser at json.org doesn't work in Safari (because it uses the unimplemented-in-webkit hasOwnProperty method) and can choke in Moz if you feed it DOM nodes, so I was looking for other implementations. Nobody had anything to say, and I'm reasonably certain I hadn't engaged in some horrid netiquette faux pas. I also see an awful lot of newbie activity on c.l.j, which gives me a great chance to help other people out, but I wonder if it drives other developers away.

I'm finding more answers to questions on blogs via Google (some stuff on TrimPath, and from John Resig and Thomas Frank pointed me in the right direction). Are people really retreating from forums to individual blogs? If so, whose should I be following? If not, are there forums where the readership is more experienced and the discussion is better?
posted by weston to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Even though I'm a banker, my first degree is Math & Computer Science, I'm terminally curious and read a lot.

I stumbled across Ajaxian.com and it seems pretty solid so far. Not sure how it rates in the grand scheme of things, but when I've found time to read it I've always left having learned something

...but then again I'm a banker so YMMV...
posted by Mutant at 9:58 AM on April 6, 2007

I occasionally find myself asking questions on irc.freenode.net's #javascript channel.
posted by roue at 10:43 AM on April 6, 2007

I haven't been there for a while, but SitePoint Forums used to have a lot of experienced members, and the quality of replies was high and well-informed. You should definitely check it out, and see if it's still as good as I remember it.
posted by jayden at 11:14 AM on April 6, 2007

I've never stuck to one location. Google is my friend, and eventually, I'll find some technical forum someplace that has the answer. If I find myself wandering back there again, I'll eventually bookmark it and read it casually in the less busy moments of my life.

This is a rare thing, however, and 99% of the time I'll find the answer I'm seeking on a straight search engine result before I go to some specific hangout.

JSON is, in the scheme of things, a relatively new terminology (even though the techniques it's using aren't anything new -- much like AJAX), so you may be encountering a vernacular problem when asking your questions.
posted by thanotopsis at 11:32 AM on April 6, 2007

I don't have anything good to recommend, except to say that Ajaxian is a cesspool of idiots who don't know what they're talking about. I feel really bad being so nasty about it (sorry Mutant) but I find it pretty useless. They have zero concept of what is easy or hard to do, and so half their posts are breathless trash about someone who did something that was an interesting idea like a year ago. They also barely read what they post about, so reading the actual sources they link to can turn up ideas that are radically different from what they claimed. To get around that, they tend to just C&P huge sections of the cited source instead of providing useful commentary. So if you aren't super familiar with what they're talking about, take their content with a very large grain of salt.

But then, I'm very touchy about Ajaxian. It's probably not as bad as I think it is, but every time I stumble on to their site it makes me feel sad inside and it drives me nuts that it gets pointed to as a useful contribution to Internet Knowledge.
posted by heresiarch at 12:12 PM on April 6, 2007

Quick follow-on to make my previous post seem (hopefully) a little less unfounded.

Take this post on the top of Ajaxian at the moment. It claims some moderately interesting new achievement (movies with only javascript), but elides the fact that it's not ACTUALLY a movie, it's just a bunch of jpgs that the system cycles through really fast that comes from a file that was once a movie. The author points out that the "effect" is interesting, which I guess is supposed to be the tiling of the frames? But that has nothing (as far as I can tell) to do with the core technical work. It doesn't have to be there for this to work. Furthermore, the whole process is a waste of time because to generate something that is playable by this technique you need a server-side program that grabs single frames from videos first. So bottom line - interesting proof of concept, but this particular technique isn't scalable. Not to say it's not worth covering, just that they don't ever distinguish what's a cute hack, what's genuinely new, and what's just a proof of concept that has a long, long way to go before being useful.

This is the kind of context they should be providing, but don't. Instead, the cursory reader comes away thinking someone is playing AVIs with javascript which is patently not true.
posted by heresiarch at 12:24 PM on April 6, 2007

Not a community, but I find most of my javascript questions end up being answered on quirksmode.org.

Of course, if you've ever searched google for javascript issues, you've probably ran across it before.

I also like the mootools forum -- people there know javascript real well -- but general discussion of javascript is frowned upon there (ie, forums are only for discussing mootools lib).

http://clientside.cnet.com/, also mootools related, has good content as well.

i have to agree that ajaxian hasn't ever been particularly helpful to me, although they are a halfway-decent 'news' source for what is happening in the ajax world.
posted by fishfucker at 12:56 PM on April 6, 2007

i have to second heresiarch and thano (re: google has more answers than communities do)

the javascript/ajax/css/dhtml "discussion" community is a pile of manure that oozes amateur knowledge for personal attention (and freelance clients). it's basically just a bunch of scripters and designers gradually learning more advanced OOP techniques and posting on their various individual blogs about it, resulting in this completely scattered ongoing competition.

ajaxian is just more of the same. there's no "quality filter" or "novelty filter."

if you want to learn, i recommend

in short, the people actually making waves are too busy with trial and error to spend their time telling other people about it.

and that fills my "grouchy post about things i don't like on the internet" quota for the day
posted by Señor Pantalones at 12:59 PM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, another site popped into my head. You should check out Douglas Crockford's site. It's kind of random, but he's one of the few people who writes at length about JavaScript from a serious software engineer perspective and not as an amateur. He gets called the "inventor" of JSON sometimes, insomuch as you can invent a subset of a language and call it a new format.

Señor Pantalones' characterization is spot on, and there aren't many people taking JavaScript development seriously (outside of companies who don't talk much). Crockford is seriously smart and thoughtful and his essays alone will change how you think about the language. He's now at Yahoo! working on their excellent library YUI.
posted by heresiarch at 1:33 PM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

the javascript/ajax/css/dhtml "discussion" community is a pile of manure that oozes amateur knowledge for personal attention...the people actually making waves are too busy with trial and error to spend their time telling other people about it.

This isn't what I wanted to hear, but it makes me feel like I'm not crazy. I've gotten a similar impression.

I really do appreciate all the pointers, though, even those that might not be the utopias of enlightend expert discussion I was hoping for! Keep 'em comming if you've got 'em.
posted by weston at 2:37 PM on April 6, 2007

Oh good, I'm glad it's not just me. Been involved in an AJAX-heavy javascript-dense application for the first time in a while for the last few weeks and generally relying on Google to get me through some tight spots. From my experience, I'd agree with most here, there doesn't seem to be any obvious go-to places online for discussion of some of the more OO and advanced javascript ideas. Plenty for folks who want to do the very basics. Anyhow, as a half-assed answer, I'll just agree that I've found quirksmode.org is as good a place to start as any when I've a specific problem, and, I agreed, Douglas Crockford's site is a bit of a star.

What I'd love to see is some critical, objective comparative reviews of some of the various emerging and competing frameworks/libraries, but all one tends to find is cheer-leading for one or the other.
posted by normy at 2:38 PM on April 6, 2007

There is plenty of good discussion going on in the ajax community, but its not consolidated around one forum or group. Most general groups, like the usenet group, end up with a ton of newbie questions and not many experienced folks.

Most experienced folks are reading/writing/commenting on blogs, and some are posting to framework specific lists. The frameworks are really pushing the state of the art right now. You should definitely have a favorite framework that you are learning as you get better at Javascript.

Here are some specific recommendations: Of course, I'll second the links to PPK and Crockford, mootools, and sitepoint. There is great info out there, and some really top notch books too. Don't be discouraged by comp.lang.javascript =). Hope that helps...
posted by rsanheim at 4:50 PM on April 6, 2007

Dojo? Really? I started out developing with Dojo and had to stop because every time I tried to look at the documentation, their site (which heavily used the Dojo library) would freeze firefox (all windows) for about 20 seconds before displaying content.

Needless to say, my app did the same thing.

I liked the idea of dojo, but I just found that it was waaaay too heavy, and I thought most of the widgets (purportedly, the reason for it being a 150k library), while somewhat cool, were not anything i'd ever need to use.
posted by fishfucker at 1:04 AM on April 7, 2007

Fish: Hmm, I know that had an issue with locking at a previous point release - they tracked it down quickly and fixed it. Right now I can view the dojo site fine in FF 2 and 1.5.

Regarding the size of Dojo, you really aren't meant to use the entire 200k or whatever for most apps. They have a build system so you can get just the code you need and drop the rest. If you just need ajax and the event system in dojo, for example, the size of the toolkit should be well under 100k.
posted by rsanheim at 10:07 AM on April 7, 2007

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